BY KEITH WALTZ
As the site of the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race on June 19, 1949, the three-quarter-mile Charlotte Speedway dirt track holds a special place in NASCAR history.
Following a busy season of modified racing in 1948, NASCAR founder Bill France introduced a series of races for a new division of “strictly stock” automobiles. The first of eight races was scheduled for the Charlotte track, which had opened on July 11, 1948, after being built by Harvey and Pat Charles on property leased from C.C. Allison and his wife.
Jim Roper, of Halstead, Kan., inherited the $2,000 top prize for winning the inaugural event after tech inspectors discovered the rear springs on the car driven by apparent winner Glenn Dunnaway had been illegally altered.
Fonty Flock ended up second with Red Byron, Sam Rice and Tim Flock completing the top-five finishers in the 33-car field.
A total of 12 NASCAR Cup Series races were run at Charlotte Speedway between the first in 1949 and the last on Oct. 14, 1956.
Buck Baker, who worked as a Charlotte city bus driver before focusing on his racing career, won that final race. He took the lead on lap 30 of 133 and was never seriously challenged, wheeling Carl Kiekhaefer’s Chrysler to his 12th victory of the season
Baker was the top NASCAR Cup Series winner at Charlotte Speedway with three. Curtis Turner and Herb Thomas were each two-time winners while single victories were earned by Roper, Tim Flock, Fonty Flock, Dick Passwater and Speedy Thompson.
Charlotte Speedway hosted a pair of NASCAR Convertible Series races on a half-mile dirt oval in 1957, but the track eventually closed when construction of Interstate 85 took its parking lot.